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The Ballast Of Tom Jones: Tough Love Machine

Working hand in hand

Gosh, how I'd love to tell you about the later levels of pay-what-you-want puzzle Tough Love Machine [official site]. Because I'd love to be clever enough to have reached them.

Controlling two hands on gradually extending arms, one via WASD, the other on the cursors, you must push two hearts until they meet. Awwww. Except, good gracious, it's tricky.

And as a result, solving a level can make you feel rather excellent. As I informed the Secret RPS Chat Clan:

John: Already stuck on lvl 3 of Tough Love Machine.



Awkwardly, everyone else forgot to reply agreeing.

It's intriguing just how complex this game gets so early on, and yet now eminently solvable they seem once you've bent things into a solution. Realising you can curl an arm around on itself to push a heart onto its own arm - there's a thing. The limited reach of each arm is communicated through a scale of 8bit sounds, 12 increasing notes, while other noises sound direct from your favourite Spectrum platformer. Working out how to play nicely with yourself, as you coordinate the two arms into something useful, is entertainingly difficult, without being unfair.

Tough Love Machine is playable in your browser on Newgrounds, Kongregate, and Game Jolt, and available as a download for Windows and Mac from Itch.

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John Walker avatar

John Walker


Once one of the original co-founders of Rock Paper Shotgun, we killed John out of jealousy. He now runs buried-treasure.org